CD/DVD Review: Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballisticrock

CD/DVD Review: Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballisticrock
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: A- 

Ted Nugent - Ultralive Ballisticrock 2013
Ted Nugent makes some people … well, uncomfortable. More than that, actually, Nugent, so willing to fan the flames of controversy every chance he gets, inspires outright hatred from the Left and utter devotion from the Right, and there's hardly any middle ground to walk. Whether for or against him, it's hard deny the Nugent's messianic passion, be it for hunting, the Constitution or hot-blooded American rock 'n' roll and R&B. 

A believer in the "no guts, no glory" ethos, Nugent goes for the throat on "Ultralive Ballisticrock," which is about as good a description as any for this thrilling double CD/DVD lightning bolt from Frontiers Records. The "balls to the wall" energy of this recording is off the charts. Words like "soul" and "spirit" are invoked in what amounts to a fiery sermon on the need for getting back to what is primal, what is unspoiled and what is real about screaming guitars, propulsive bass and blasting-cap drums coming together to create a life-affirming racket. This is communion for Ted, and everybody can eat of his body or drink of his blood, or they can leave well enough alone. 

Invoking the image of Christ is not without precedent when it comes to Nugent. Who can forget that iconic image of Ted in nothing but a loin cloth and all that frizzy hair spilling out all over the place. It certainly comes to mind when watching or listening to this recording Nugent performing in 2011 alongside Derek St. Holmes on rhythm guitar/vocals, Greg Smith of Rainbow fame on bass and Mick Brown (Dokken) on drums at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania.

Cussing up a storm, they launch into bubbling proto-metal boils "Free For All," "Wango Tango," "Just What the Doctor Ordered" and "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" on the first disc like a pack of wild dogs, with mangy, tenacious riffs chomping at the bit and Nugent, perfectly at ease in the spotlight, tearing off savage, biting solos that attack like hungry predators and are as sharp as knives used to field dress a deer. There is no letting up on Disc 2, where the sonic powder keg that is "Motorcity Madhouse" simply explodes, sending chords and notes everywhere like emptied shell casings. Snarling and pacing back and forth, Nugent and crew turn "Cat Scratch Fever" into a caged animal that is too dangerous to ever be released, while the slithering grooves of "Stranglehold," that great, almost hypnotic riff sounding more vicious than ever, coil around simmering rhythms like smoke.

Want to know the origins of stoner metal? It all starts here, and when these versions climax, they do so with volume and emotion. Let's not forget that Nugent absolutely worships the MC5, and those all-consuming, fiery stage shows they used to kick out in hard-scrabble Detroit left an impression on a burgeoning young talent who saw a bit of himself in them. What storming rhythmic section support he has, too, with Brown's full-on percussive hammering and Smith's bass providing thunder and relentless momentum.

The sound is magnificent, cooking both the fat and lean sinew of Nugent's performance into a tasty dish, and it is vividly filmed with multiple cameras that seem to stalk and gravitate toward each member of the band at just that right moment when they are ready for their close-ups. Nugent isn't getting older. He's becoming more intensely driven, and that's a good thing for rock 'n' roll.
– Peter Lindblad

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